The Top Words of 2011
The Austin based Global Language Monitor has released it’s list of top words for 2011.
Some years it’s very easy to pick the number one word. In 2001 “9/11″ dominated the news media and was very quickly adopted into general use. Then there are years with several major events that thrust different words into common use. The Global Language Monitor’s Paul Payack says this year’s top word was a bit of a surprise. The word: “Occupy.”
“And so occupy was one of those words that we did not plan on using it. I mean nobody even knew Occupy Wall Street until later in the year,” Payack said.
He doesn’t pick words just because they become trendy. He uses mathematics. He scours media sites and counts usage, then calculates how quickly the word is being adopted among the English-speaking countries. What made occupy so popular? Well it wasn’t just the movement that has claimed park space from New York to Austin.
“What we saw is that it came up many times in ending the occupation of Iraq,” Payack said, “and then there’s continual news about the so called occupied territories in Palestine.”
The top 10 words of 2011 also included several words generated outside the U.S. From “haboob,” an Arabic term for sand storm to “non-veg,” a term used in India to indicate a meal served with meat. Payack says the United States’ use of Indian call centers helped that term jump the Atlantic. And the rapid increase of English speakers will only continue to bring foreign born words into the common vernacular.
“In 1960 there we 250-million English speakers. And most of those were in the former British Empire. And, in 2011, there’s 250-million people studying English in China alone,” Payack said.
So what about 2012? Payack thinks “Kate,” as in the Duchess of Cambridge, will be a top word. Along with “olympiad” for the London Olympics and “election” for the 2012 presidential contest.
But there are also a handful of doomsday terms that could race to the top next year. From “rogue nukes” to “near-earth asteroids” to “Bak’tun,” the Mayan calendar that ends in December. Although the one Payack will be paying attention to is “solar max.” That’s the 11-year cycle of sun spots and solar flares that peak in 2012. Payack points to a particularly devastating storm in the 1850′s.
“Telegraph wire were actually melted,” Payack said. “but now, when we have this entire electronic infrastructure, that spreads around the planet and above the planet, with all our communications satellites and all, something like that would be truly frightening.”
Payack also expects whatever end up describing the next evolution of the “Arab Spring” will be a contender for word of the year.
Below you’ll find the top words from 2011 and predictions for 2012 by Payack and the Global Language Monitor.
The Top Words of 2011:
1. Occupy – ‘Occupy’ has risen to preeminence through Occupy Movement, the occupation of Iraq, and the so-called ‘Occupied Territories’. (Also named by NPR and Time.)
2. Deficit – Growing and possibly intractable problem for the economies of the developed world.
3. Fracking – Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial method for extracting fossil fuels from hitherto unreachable deposits.
4. Drone – The ever-increasing number of remotely-piloted aircraft used for reconnaissance and attack purposes.
5. Non-veg – A meal served with meat, originally from India, now catching on worldwide.
6. Kummerspeck – From the German seeing wider acceptance in the English, excess weight gained from emotional overeating (grief bacon).
7. Haboob – A name imported from the Arabic for massive sandstorms in the American Southwest.
8. 3Q – Near universal term for ‘thank you’ now earning additional status after being banned from official Chinese dictionaries. Another example of the ever increasing mixing of numbers and letters to form words.
9. Trustafarians – Well-to-do youth (trust-funders) living a faux-Bohemian life style, now associated with the London Riots.
10. (The Other) 99 percent – Referring to the majority of those living in Western Democracies who are left out of the dramatic rise in earnings associated with “the Top 1 percent”.
Top Word Predictions for 2012:
1. Kate — There are seven billion humans on the planet but sometimes it seems that it’s all about “Kate,” the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton in terms of fashion, celebrity, and the royal line.
2. Olympiad — The Greeks measured time by the four-year interval between the Games. Moderns measure it by medal counts, rights fees and billions of eyeballs.
3. Middle Kingdom – There is little indication that China’s continuing economic surge will fade from the global media spotlight, or abate.
4. Bak’tun — A cycle of 144,000 days in the Maya ‘Long Count’ Calendar. This bak’tun ends on December 21, 2012, also being called the Mayan Apocalypse. (Actually Maya ‘long-count’ calendars stretch hundreds of millions of years into the future, December 21st merely marks the beginning of a new cycle.)
5. Solar max — The peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle; in solar storms during the 1850s melted telegraph wires; what’s in store for our all-pervasive electronic infrastructure?
6. The Election — No Obama-mania this time around, more of an Obama-ennui for the November 6 elections.
7. Deficit — Looks like deficit-spending will plague Western democracies for at least the next decade.
8. Rogue nukes — Iran and North Korea will be the focus of attention here.
9. CERN — Neutrons traveling faster than light? The ‘God Particle’? The world ending in a mini-black hole? All these somehow revolve around CERN (The European Center for Nuclear Research). One CERN scientist calculated that the chance of a mini-Black Hole swallowing the Earth is less than 1 in 50,000,000. Somewhat comforting until you realize this is about ten times more likely than winning a national lottery.)
10. Global Warming — The earth has been warming since New York was covered under a mountain of ice; what makes 2012 any different?
11. Near-Earth Asteroid — Yet another year, another asteroid, another near-miss. (However, one does strike the Earth every one hundred million years or so.)
12. Europe — United, breaking apart, saving the Euro, abandoning the Euro, with the UK again as an ‘interested onlooker’. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.